The extroverted counterpart to Elton’s earlier album of 1975, his introspective Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Rock of the Westies is almost completely manic. Having dumped longtime drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray, Elton flanks himself with a much larger and more aggressive ensemble for less-produced, nearly live spontaneity: The vocals are hoarse, and often unpolished. Elton’s coke consumption started with Caribou, but here, for the first time, you can hear it.
Westies repeats the unevenness of that disc, but with all the great stuff conveniently sequenced on Side One and all the marginal, substandard tunes tracks dumped onto Side Two, starting with the Who-like but soon monotonous “Street Kids.” Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are also uncharacteristically direct: His “Island Girl” would rather turn tricks for the white dudes on 47th and Lex than bounce back to Jamaica, but his grim scenario is set to some the most jubilant sounds in his partner’s catalog. This is the hard-rocking Elton who routinely dressed up as the Statue of Liberty for stadiums full of hit-pumped fans: It’s kinda clownish, but, for the first half, mighty fun.